M.I.B. Prime 9: Our top moments of 2015

With time winding down on 2015, it’s time to look back and reflect on this past year. Due to a personal loss, we didn’t get to take in a ballpark tour this season, but that didn’t stop us from having some great times, and making some unforgettable memories. Every moment spent with my kids and dad are special, and it’s always difficult to narrow a list down and do every event justice.

Brian with his favorite Whitecaps player, Joey Pankake
Brian with his favorite Whitecaps player, Joey Pankake

9) Meeting Joey Pankake: Picking the #9 slot is sometimes harder than the #1, as it usually means that one special event is left out. I decided to go with Brian meeting his favorite player in Whitecaps’ second baseman Joey Pankake. We watched him on TV last year when he was playing his college ball with South Carolina, and were excited when the Tigers picked him up in the draft. Every Sunday home game the Whitecaps let the fans on the field to meet the players, so we took advantage of that. Joey was really nice to Brian, as he signed a program for him and got a picture. Times like this is what makes baseball fans.

17148118526_412fc48d08_z8) Back in Jax: While I was down in southern Georgia doing some training for work in April, I was able to take in a couple of Jacksonville Suns games. The Suns have a great venue, and a game here is always a great experience. Back in 2005 when I was down training for 18 weeks, I went to many games, and the Suns were a positive distraction from missing my kids back home. It was good to be back after a decade, and I hope I don’t have to wait that long to catch another game in Jacksonville.

16893076806_42ca3e5288_z7) Baseball in Michigan in March: This is an odd pick, I guess, for different reasons. For us, being able to watch live baseball in the month of March is amazing, and we were definitely lucky to be able to take a game as the Central Michigan Chippewas hosted the Ohio Bobcats. On a more somber note, this game was a chance for my dad and I to get out of town and away from things for an afternoon after my mom passed. She loved baseball and CMU, so this was a good place rehash some good memories of her.

19040155204_22d92329b2_z6) Star Wars Night: Although Star Wars Night usually ranks higher on our list, it shouldn’t take away how much fun we had. This season we were back at Fifth Third Ballpark to watch the Whitecaps and see some of our favorite Star Wars characters (we were in Lansing last season). Most of the main guys were there, except Boba Fett, which is a favorite of Trevor and I. This was our fifth year in a row for a Star Wars event, so I’m glad that we are keeping up the tradition. It will be interesting next season to see if any of the characters from the new movie show up. After all, the 18th is coming up fast…

21486574056_05198e7575_z5) Playoffs in West Michigan: In September I was able to cross one more thing off my baseball bucket list, attending my first ever playoff game. The Whitecaps were hosting the Cedar Rapids Kernels in the Midwest League finals, and were down in the series 1-0. We were able to witness a late come-from-behind victory as the ‘Caps evened the series. It was one of those exciting, high-fiving-total strangers type of game, and it was amazing! West Michigan went on to win two out of three games in Cedar Rapids to secure the championship, and I feel privileged I could be part of the play off run.

19201290210_c58e17643c_z4) BTTF Night: This was a great night, and ranks so high probably because this was our first ever Back To The Future night event. Brian had an awesome night, and loved that he was able to sit in the Delorian, pretending to be bolted back to 1985. There was a BTTF theme throughout the Great Lakes Loons game, also, with music and games all relating to 1955, 1985, and 2015. Dow Diamond is one of the best ballparks in the minors, also, so just watching the ballgame is very enjoyable. And with a three hour drive before and after the game, was had plenty of time to watch all three BTTF movies during our trip.

IMG_24313) Brian’s Lugnuts Clinic: For a Little Leaguer having the chance to play some ball on a professional field is quite the experience. Brian was a little intimidated at first when he stepped onto the big field, and the fact that we live so far away he didn’t have any friends in the clinic. Once things got going, though, he was able to relax and just play and have fun, which is the important thing.  I hope this was a good experience for him, and that one day he can appreciate being taught the game by professional ballplayers and coaches. If nothing else, the Lugnuts certainly made another fan.

IMG_2559-02) Loons Fantasy Camp: This summer I was also able to live out a fantasy I’ve had since being Brian’s age, and that was playing baseball in a professional stadium. The Great Lakes Loons held a drawing to be able to play in a fantasy game at Dow Diamond, and I was lucky enough to secure a slot. The game was a lot of fun, and I hit the ball well each time up going 1-3. In the field at least I didn’t make any errors and a couple of plays. This was an amazing experience, and having the kids there to cheer me on was just awesome. If any other fans have the opportunity to play in one of these games, I highly recommend it.

17713796284_949ef5be80_z1) Coaching the Cubs: As usual, being able to coach one of my kids in Little League is always number one. Brian and I were members of the Cubs this season, and this was a great team full of great kids. Being able to spend time with him like this is a dream come true, and I love this age level, as I can nurture the kids love of the game while teaching them the basics.  No matter how long Brian decides to play this great sport, I will hold on to these years with all my heart and soul. Merry Christmas everyone, and  God Bless in the new year!

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball

 

Going ‘Nuts in Lansing

Lansing Lugnuts vs Bowling Green Hot Rods (Midwest League)

 Cooley Law School Stadium-Lansing, MI: After Brian finished his seminar, we got a bite to eat at the Nuthouse, then went back to see the Lugnuts host the Hot Rods.

 One cool new aspect of Cooley Law School Stadium is the Michigan Baseball Hall Of Fame.  Some of the best players who are from Michigan or played in the state are honored.  Some of my childhood favorites like Alan Trammell and Jim Abbott are honored, as well as some classic Tigers like Al Kaline, Charlie Gehringer, and broadcaster Earnie Harwell.

 The game was a fun one for us to watch, and a good one for the home team. This game was special also, as it was the first one all three kids attended. I’m glad Lily finally made it to a game with us this season. Trevor took a good pic with his phone of himself, my dad, and I. I also took one using the MiLB In The Park app. Apparently, Trevor’s phone does a little better job.

 As for the game action, the Lugnuts scored in the early, middle, and late innings. Midwest League Player of the Year Ryan McBroom had a big night offensively. He went 2-3 with a booming home run, a double, and plates five RBI’s. Center fielder D.J. Davis also contributed two RBI’s on the night, going 2-4. Alex Maldonado and Christian Vazquez each had a pair of hits, also.

 On the hill for the ‘Nuts, spot starter Tim Mayza threw five shut-out innings, giving up one hit and striking out five. In relief, Dusty Isaacs gave up one run, and Phil Kish two before shutting the door.

 In the late innings, I strolled a little to some other shots of the ballpark.

 This was a great day all around, and I’m very blessed and lucky to have this time with my kids and dad. Brian and I were a little disappointed that the mascot Big Lug didn’t walk the concourse or interact with fans at all. We have some more baseball fun planned soon! Final: Lugnuts 11, Hot Rods 3.

 Photos property of Minoring In Baseball 

Brian learns from Lugnuts

 Cooley Law School Stadium-Lansing, MI:  Over the weekend the kids and I traveled way down state so Brian could participate in the Lugnuts on-field baseball seminar. He had a lot of fun and learned a lot from the pros.

 He started out with some outfield drills. He took some fly balls, grounders, and learned to play the ball off of the wall.

 Brian’s group then moved to the bullpen for some pitching practice. His age group up here uses a pitching machine, so this was his first experience on the mound.

 After his pitching stint, his group moved to the infield for some work. Lugnuts player Tom Robson was running things there, and gave the kids some good instruction. Brian did a great job, and this is the best I’ve seen him field ground balls all season.

 Brian is a runner, so it was no surprise he enjoyed the base running aspect of the seminar so much. He learned some things we haven’t touched on at his level yet, like leading off and stealing. The last station was hitting, the best aspect of his game. Unfortunately, time ran out, and he didn’t get a chance to hit. He was disappointed, so I threw a few to him in the outfield before we left so he could show off a bit. He had one of the Lugnuts sign his ball and got his picture taken, also.

 After the seminar the kids were able to play on the park and bouncy house stuff, so all was good. This was a great experience for Brian, as he learned a lot and had fun doing it. I hope I can get him into more things like this in the future. I also apologize for this post, as it was done entirely on my iPhone since my computer is jacked.

 Here is a video of the outfield station:

Photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball

Back to reality in Michigan

Great Lakes Loons vs. Lansing Lugnuts (Midwest League)

17173558181_f9f2e46366_zDow Diamond-Midland, MI: Flying home from Florida, I decided to take an extra day and spend it with my dad. We usually go to a game for his birthday the first of April, but my training pushed that back a couple of weeks. I flew in just south of Midland, so we had a nice lunch and took in a Loons game, which is always a good time. As you can see by some of the pics, also, I finally discovered the MiLB In The Park app, and took advantage of it with the photos I took with my phone. I wish I would have used it in Jacksonville, but will definitely use it for any of our upcoming games.

16551738094_26620c07f9_z16553821313_87c6c82da4_z17172336272_6e2bdf12e6_zThis game also featured Lou E. Loons birthday party, so he had some friends celebrate with him. Ral E. Camel led the crowd in a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ for his buddy, too.

17173970525_6f7d0affc5_z17148040916_ba737ffc08_z16966576317_43c8bec9ba_zI did get spoiled a little bit with the warmer weather down south, and it seemed that some of the rain followed by back up north here. It was a little cooler here in Michigan that it was in Florida and Georgia, but in reality not all that bad for the time of year. The rain didn’t last long and didn’t delay the game, either, so it’s all good on that front.

16987798329_58a4f47c94_z16986426930_d38cc42ae8_z16987790859_c688d633dd_z17148018006_c0289c5645_zAs far as the game goes, the Lugnuts jumped to a 2-0 lead after scoring a run in each of the first two innings. The Loons came back to score single runs in the fifth and seventh innings to tie things up, but then both offenses would come to a complete stand-still.

17148007006_a86f96bbd7_z17148014896_b8b01a69a4_z17172295082_d8c7470e49_z16986169708_1d19923cf8_zAfter nine, the score was still 2-2, so into extras we went. With a little extra time, I headed to the outfield to grab a few photos from that vantage point.

16986629070_71b91e5265_z16553759903_581829d0d3_z16966515877_42e11ffdc6_zThe game went to a whopping 16 innings, with the visitors finally plating a pair. For the Lugnuts, they were led by Rowdy Tellez, who went two for seven with three RBI’s in the game, and Dickie Joe Thon who went three for six at the plate.  Andrew Case pitched the last four inning for Lansing, picking up the win while striking out two. For the home-town Loons, Josmar Cordero went three for seven, while Alex Verdugo and Mike Ahmed had two hits each. Kevin Guzman got the start on the hill for Great Lakes, going five strong innings while only giving up one earned run. Cordero, despite his three hits, would come in a take the loss, giving up both runs in the 16th. Also making an appearance for the Loons, was pitcher David Reid-Foley. Reid-Foley was born in Sault Ste. Marie (where I currently live), then moved down to Brunswick, Georgia (where I was training just the day before), and went to school and was drafted while in Jacksonville, Florida (where I caught a couple of Suns games). Baseball does unite the world, does it not? Final: Loons 2, Lugnuts 4.

17173927515_605fb993e2_z17173337611_10e212c7b3_zI wish I could say that we stayed for the whole 16 inning marathon, but honestly can’t. After being up since four in the morning, travelling back to Michigan, and still being and hour and a half until I could lay my head down, we couldn’t do more than 12 innings. A long day, but a fun time as always at Dow Diamond. We don’t have any plans to come back as of yet this season, but once Little League starts and gets a schedule, I can start looking at the rest of the summer. We do have plans to hit a pair of Whitecaps games next month, though.

17173911305_4772832dc4_z17172272672_7451da1ed5_zPhotos property of Minoring In Baseball

Michigan opening a Baseball Hall of Fame

MiHOFThis summer, the Great Lake State will be opening it’s very own Baseball Hall of Fame. The location will be at the Lansing Lugnuts’ Cooley Law School stadium, in left center field on the outfield wall. The idea came last year, when the Lugnuts started a $26.5 million renovation to their ballpark. Lugnuts owner Tom Dickson helped to conceive the idea, realizing there is no such place yet.

“We said, why don’t we do it,” Dickson told MLive.com. “Sometimes it’s amazing what you stumble upon with a little but of luck.”

The Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame will start with 10 members in its inaugural class. It will include plaques with images of the inductees, as well as the when and why they were inducted. The Hall will include players and coaches native to Michigan, as well as those who came to our state and ‘contributed significantly and positively within the national pastime.’ The Hall won’t be limited to just major league players, either, and could include a little league team, high school or college players, and coaches.

“We’re looking for people who have made an outstanding contribution to baseball in the state of Michigan across all levels”, stated Dickson.

There is a very impressive selection committee in place, looking to seek out the worthy candidates from our state.  Along with some of the great players from the Detroit Tigers, I would love to see pitcher Jim Abbott selected, as he was one of my favorite players growing up. Michigan also has a great history of amateur baseball, as the very first College World Series was played in Kalamazoo, and the Stan Musial World Series being played in Battle Creek. C.O. Brown and Arch Flannery would be good bets, also, as they were responsible for bringing the series to BC back in 1937.  I definitely can’t wait until June 27th, when the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame opens its doors.

Logo courtesy of Michigan Hall of Fame/MLive.com

50th Midwest League All-Star Classic

East Division vs. West Division

classic1Fifth Third Ballpark-Comstock Park, MI: We started off this seasons’ baseball trip with a bang this year, right here in Michigan with the 50th Midwest League All-Star Classic. The doors opened at 4:00, so when we arrived we were able to watch some of the West players during batting practice. We were really lucky it turned out to be such a beautiful day, too, as the forecast called for some rain, and thankfully we never got a drop.

classic2classic3There were plenty of things going on to keep fans entertained during the three hours until the first pitch, also. Joining the hometown mascots Crash, Franky, and Roxy, were Big Lug (Lansing), Johnny (Fort Wayne), Lou E. Loon (Great Lakes), and Fang (Wisconsin). The mascots did a great job all night and throughout the game. Crash and Lou E. Loon really stood out from the others, though, in entertaining the crowd.

classic4classic5classic6classic7classic8Fans were also lucky enough to get down on the field and get some autographs from the all-stars. They didn’t give us a whole lot of time, but I was able to get most of the East team to sign a baseball for the kids. It was fun talking to the players, also, even the ones from opposing teams we don’t get to see that often. All the players were great with the fans, and seemed very happy to be participating in the game.

classic9

Me with the Whitecaps Javier Betancourt
Me with the Whitecaps Javier Betancourt

Another pre-game activity was the ‘Lost Art of Bunting’ contest. Players from each team had a chance to try bunting the ball onto select targets down the first and third base side. This year’s winner was Mallex Smith, and outfielder for the Fort Wayne TinCaps.

classic11Also on hand to sign some autographs was Detroit Tigers’ legend Willie Horton. Being a World Champion for the Tigers in 1968, he was someone my parents watched back in the 60’s and 70’s. We made sure he signed a ball for both of them, and I tried to get Horton in a photo with my dad, but there was some bad lighting. Still better than nothing, though. There was a long line for autographs, but it moved pretty quickly. Almost comical, though, as you couldn’t have him personalize an autograph or get an actual picture with him.

classic12classic13Now, on to the game itself…which was a blowout. You’d think an all-star game would be pretty competitive, but the West shut down the hitters from the East almost the entire game. In fact, the East was no-hit for 7 2/3 innings, before South Bend’s Marty Herum wrecked it. The Whitecaps’ starting pitcher Jonathan Crawford took the loss for the East, giving up one run in two innings of work. The ‘Caps Buck Farmer came in and pitched a scoreless fifth inning. He struck out one, walked one, and hit one batter. He leads the Midwest League with 87 strikeouts. Wynton Bernard played left field the entire game, going 0-3 with a walk, and leaving two runners on. Second baseman Javier Betancourt came into the game in the fifth inning. Although he was tied for the league lead in hits, he went 0-2 with a line-drive out and a ground-out. West Michigan pitchers Austin Kubitza, Chad Green, and reliever Joe Mantiply did not make an appearance.

classic14classic15classic16classic17classic18classic19classic20classic21classic22classic23The MVP award went to Hershel ‘Boog’ Powell of the Beloit Snappers. Boog went 1-3 with two walks, two stolen bases, and a two-run double. Even though the games wasn’t a close one, it was still an exciting experience for any baseball fan. And, hey, at least I caught a game ball! Final score: East 0, West 7.

classic24Here’s a video from my YouTube channel:

All photos and video property of Minoring In Baseball

 

Midwest League All-Star Rosters Announced

Kicking off our annual baseball trip this season will be the 50th Midwest League All-Star Game in Comstock Park, MI in less than two weeks. This will be the first All-Star game of any kind that we have attended, and it will possibly be the highlight game of the trip. The gates to Fifth Third Ballpark will be opening at 4:00 p.m., and we’ll be able to see both teams take batting practice and be able to take part in an on-field autograph session. Also in attendance, joining the Whitecap’s own Crash the River Rascal, will be Big Lug (Lansing), Lou E. Loon (Great Lakes), Fang (Wisconsin), and Johnny (Fort Wayne). There will also being jugglers, stilt walkers, and face painters on the concourse before the game. Sounds like a great place to be a kid, and it’s almost guaranteed we’ll be seeing some great baseball. The Midwest League has announced the rosters for the event, also.

rainy7The West Michigan Whitecaps lead the way with five (or six?) players selected. Infielder Javier Betancourt (.272, 68 hits) and outfielder Wynton Bernard (.298, 14 doubles) were picked as the position players representing the ‘Caps. On the mound, pitchers Buck Farmer (5-4, 2.81 ERA), Austin Kubitza (5-0, 2.02 ERA), and Joe Mantiply (4-1, 2.00) will represent West Michigan. Jonathan Crawford (2-1, 2.27 ERA) is listed on the ‘Cap website, but has yet to be added to the official roster. That’s a very good group for the home-town fans to root for.

starwarsday14The Lansing Lugnuts will be sending four players north on I-96. Starting for the Eastern Division will be first baseman Matt Dean (.297, 3 triples, 2 home runs) and third baseman Mitch Nay (.267, 31 RBI’s). Outfielder Derrick Loveless (.287) will come off the bench, as will pitcher Griffin Murphy (2-2, 1.73). Not a bad group to represent the Lugnuts this year.

Lou E. Loon!!!
Lou E. Loon!!!

Three members of the Great Lakes Loons will also be all-star bound. Starting for the Eastern Division will catcher Kyle Farmer (.308, 15 2B, 33 RBI’s) and outfielder Joey Curletta (.314, 72 hits, 95 total bases). On the hill will Mark Pope, with a 1-0 record and miniscule 0.41 ERA. What the Loons lack in quantity, that definitely make up for in quality. All three players are having great seasons in the Midwest League this year!

You can see the full Eastern Division roster HERE, and the Western Division roster HERE.

Photos property of Minoring In Baseball